This month we continue extolling the talents of lesser-known international female singer-songwriters. If you ever have the opportunity to hear Imogen Heap or Tina Dico perform live, you’ll experience magical moments of sublime musical composition and performance.
Over the past few years, I’ve continued to discover tracks by both artists. Each time, I feel like a kid on Christmas morning discovering the unexpected gift under the tree.
I first heard Tina Dico perform in 2004, at the Park West in Chicago, when she was one of three lead singers for the band Zero 7. This was, without doubt, the best live concert I have ever seen. Yes, even more satisfying than the Who, Pink Floyd, the Moody Blues, etc. But I digress.
In the two years prior to the blessed event at the Park West, my daughter, Camie, and I had delved deeply into the music of Zero 7, a sophisticated, down-tempo electronic UK band led by Sam Hardaker and Henry Binns. We memorized the lyrics from their CDs, Simple Things (2001) and When It Falls (2004). In the second CD, Tina Dico shared vocals with Sia Furler and Sophie Barker.
Part of the reason that Zero 7 concert was so electric stemmed from accessibility to the musicians—an audience of only 800 people, a cleared dance floor in front of the band. We could walk up to the stage and see the glint in each of the singer’s eyes. Dressed modestly in contemporary fashion, 25-year-old Danish Tina Dico looked like a sweet, well-mannered young lady from a private school. Yet she sang the blues with such clarity and emotion and delivered a subdued, impassioned performance—it blew us all away. That night, I became a big time fan of Tina Dico. As Camie put it, “This is so surreal!”
Andy’s picks for Tina: The very best of Tina Dico’s work is spread across her collaborations with Zero 7 and her solo CDs. I recommend these tracks featuring Tina’s lead vocals with Zero 7: “Home,” “Passing By,” and “The Space Between.” From Tina’s solo work, explore tracks “One,” “You Know Better,” and “The City.” For an extra-special treat, listen to her duet with the LA-based artist AM as they cover the Beatles tune, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” found on the CD Side by Side Duets, Volume 1. I guarantee that your heart will soar.
Imogen Heap seems like a friendly alien—she composes music that is so out of this world. Her unique singing style uses vocal breaks where she suddenly changes tones in unexpected, yet satisfyingly good ways. She experiments with a variety of keyboards, synthesizers, and electronic vocal devices.
I first discovered her in 2002 while helping my wife coach volleyball at the middle school. One of our players raved about the group Frou Frou, who happened to consist of Imogen and fellow Brit Guy Sigsworth. They split amicably in 2003 but there’s buzz that they may reunite this year.
Imogen looks like a model with edgy, stylish outfits consistent with her experimental music inclinations. It’s been fascinating to witness the progression of her musical sophistication through the years.
Andy’s picks for Imogen: I recommend that you begin with these tracks from Frou Frou (2002): “ Here Me Out” and “Breathe In.” Then move ahead to 2005 with her solo work “Clear the Area.” Follow up with “Hide and Seek,” a tune covered by local trio Rock, Paper, and Scissors in recent years. I favor the acoustic version tagged as “Hide and Seek 2” available on the CD Songs for Tibet. Next, sample from her 2009 CD Ellipse. I suggest the track “Between the Sheets.” How can you go wrong with Imogen in your ears and heart?
Somehow, the world will seem different after you explore the music of Tina Dico and Imogen Heap.
Andy Bargerstock’s radio show Fringe Toast can be heard on KRUU-FM 100.1 on Wednesdays at 8 p.m.
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